Tammy’s story

Dear Santa,

I remember you telling me when I was a little girl that Mrs. Claus prefers the solid blue lights on a tree because the multi-colored lights belong in the Northern sky. I always thought that was rather poetic but seeing as we don’t have Northern lights here in Pennsylvania, I’ve often wondered what Mrs. Claus would do?

She’d smile at me, wouldn’t she, and say something like “That isn’t the point. The point is to let the lights shine and lights are supposed to shine all year through with what we can do.”

Well, that reminded me of The Salvation Army’s Project Break Through (PBT) program. It offers the light of encouragement for a whole year along with guidance to set realistic life changing goals to help lift impoverished families from barely surviving into thriving.

One of the basic components is pairing a mentor with mentees. These mentoring volunteers become advisors, sounding boards, cheering sections and family friends for that year.

Mentors and mentees, work together to identify obstacles, brainstorm solutions and break down goals into manageable pieces which helps greatly with achieving goals – goals that range from getting a high school diploma equivalent or enrolling into a higher education program to becoming a homeowner or starting a business.

What a gift of light showing others the way out of poverty’s darkness. And did you know Santa, some of our mentees then become mentors themselves.

I mean, how awesome is that? It’s like watching a line of Christmas candles being lit one by one. These new mentors bring an understanding of what it’s like to be in that dark place and what it takes to get out.

Life building skill classes are also offered like financial management, anger management, parenting and nutrition. Yes, you and I both love cookies but selecting healthier options MOST of the time does help to lead to happier and more productive life. (Do calories really weigh the same in December?)

And PBT families bond over the monthly PBT family night, which allows them to spread a little light amongst themselves because really, who understands you better than your peers.

One of the family nights was a spa time with mini massages, spinal alignment checks and manicures. Both the adults and the kids enjoyed that!

This Salvation Army program is entering its eighth year and so far we’ve easily helped over 1,000 families. We’re looking forward to helping more.

Anyway, please tell Mrs. Claus to keep enjoying those Northern lights and best wishes!

Your friend,


Please help by giving generously to the Sun-Gazette and the Salvation Army Santa Fund.

You can help make this a brighter holiday season for local families by making a contribution in person to any branch of M&T Bank or by mail to M&T Bank at 405 River Ave.; at the Salvation Army, 457 Market St.; or the Sun-Gazette office, 252 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, PA 17701.

The Santa Fund is a fundraiser organized by the Sun-Gazette and the Salvation Army to help local families in need.

Tammy’s story

Dear Santa,

Did you know The Salvation Army’s red kettle came into existence more than 120 years ago? In fact, this is its 123rd year with helping feed the hungry and it has grown to help fund social service programs throughout the year.

I was sort of surprised to find out the idea took a bit for it to catch on. In fact, did you know early Salvation Army officers refused to cooperate with the red kettle idea because they were afraid they’d “make spectacles of themselves.”

I’m also intrigued how this story continues to evolve with the times. The red kettles aren’t only in front of favorite stores where people can plunk some coins or dollar bills in but it’s moved into the virtual realm too.

Do you get email yet, Santa? I’m not sure what the reception is there on the North Pole, but here in the south (well, everything is south for you) people can also choose to donate online. And check this, they can start their own online kettle, join someone else’s personal online kettle team and even carry the kettle with them on a smart device – all in the name of giving to someone less fortunate.

The red kettle has moved considerably from its early days to being an icon that we see even in the movies and television shows. The campaign sure has spread over the years. Did you know it runs world-wide and helps 30 million people year round? How cool is that?

It’s rather neat seeing first hand how the social services helps people in our community. I still smile when I think about a morning I came in sleepy out of bed and looking forward to having the day go by. I’m going through my voicemail and I listen to this exuberant message. My caller was a single mom who just started a job but the costs from an emergency move put her in a difficult spot. We were able to help her with one of our programs.

Amidst all of her thank-yous she said one of her goals was to give back to The Salvation Army. I don’t doubt I’ll see her do just that. I imagine when she walks by a red kettle now that’s she’s been on the receiving end, she’ll view just a bit differently.

I’ve heard other stories from some of our volunteers and donors about how The Salvation Army helped them when they needed it and its part of their drive to do their part to support an organization that endeavors to “Do the Most Good.”

The red kettle certainly is a symbol of true giving during this holiday season!

Your friend,


Please help by giving generously to the Sun-Gazette and The Salvation Army Santa Fund.

You can make this a brighter holiday season for local families by making a contribution in person to any branch of M&T Bank or by mail to M&T Bank at 405 River Avenue; at The Salvation Army, 457 Market Street; or the Sun-Gazette office, 252 West Fourth Street, Williamsport, PA 17701.